Ever wished for a better camera for the smartphone to take nicer photos? While camera capabilities are limited by the phone’s size, startup Photogram is developing an alternative that brings the benefits of the mirrorless camera to the smartphone.
Its Alice compact, mirrorless camera is sleek and sports just a shutter button, control wheel and cold-shoe adapter. After mounting the smartphone, it connects via 5Ghz wi-fi, letting users share images and stream videos easily.
Alice is built around a Sony IMX294 10.7 megapixel 4/3 sensor optimised for high-quality and full-width 4K video. The sensor is eight times bigger than that of a typical smartphone.
In front of that big sensor is a Micro Four Third lens mount. The compact interchangeable lens system gives users access to more than 100 lens options from Olympus, Panasonic, and specialty lens makers such as Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.
Users will be able to choose from 16mm-equivalent fish-eye lenses for a super-wide angle of view or 800mm-equivalent telephone zoom lenses able to get clear, undistorted pictures of objects far away, with plenty of options in between.
THE SECRET SAUCE
“I was thinking a lot about how data science and machine learning and AI could be applied to create video and imagery. I was using a camera all the time to create video content and becoming increasingly frustrated with operating them,” said Vishal Kumar of Photogram.
The secret sauce is an AI built using NVIDIA GPU-accelerated deep learning to help photographers wring the most out of Alice’s hardware. The AI controls and improves focusing, changes exposure, automatically adjusts white balance, and performs automatic image stabilisation.
Users will eventually make Alice better at whatever photography they do. “Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer, or you like to shoot cats or clothes. We want people to be able to optimise our models and retrain them so their Alice camera can be more optimised for the photography they do,” said Kumar.
Since its listing on Indigogo last September, Alice has raised US$200,000 from more than 250 backers by February. It is due for release in October for around US$760 to early backers.
When Google announced the Google Home speaker in 2016, I was excited and wanted to get one. Unfortunately, the product wasn’t available in Singapore then.
During my next trip to the US in 2017, I stayed in San Jose and scouted for the nearest outlet selling the device. I was so delighted to find it at a nearby Walmart and bought two — one to give as a gift.
From then on, it’s a love affair that has expanded to the Google Home Mini, which I installed in another room. The smart speakers produce acceptable sound quality (for my ears) and are so easy to set up.
The introduction of Google Nest Audio this year got me all worked up again. But, this time, I need not (and could not anyway) fly to the US to get my fix. My discerning daughter gifted me one as soon as it was available.
It doesn’t look like the first two iterations but everything else was so intuitive.
After more than a month with the Google Nest, here are my thoughts:
Easy setup. One of the biggest frustrations of getting a new device is the setting up. But, Google has made it so easy that my Nest was up and running in a minute.
Good sound. Under its larger form factor are a pair of speakers that produce good sounds. The Google Nest Audio sports a 75mm woofer and a 19mm tweeter, which delivers more oomph compared to the sole 50mm speaker on the first Home.
Inconspicuous look. Some may say that the design looks too simple but I feel that it is just what a speaker should look like. Speakers are meant to be heard, not seen, so the simple look can fit in anywhere without drawing attention.
Privacy mode. With so much concern over whether wireless speakers are recording conversations, Google has added a microphone switch to turn it off when greater privacy is desired.
Great price. At S$139, the price in Singapore is similar to the US pricing. Plus, local shipping is free so there’s no need to pay for overseas shipping and that long wait.
The Google Nest Audio can be paired with another to provide a stereo effect. I only have one so cannot comment on how good that would be. But my imagination tells me that if one is already good, two would make the audio experience much better. If you like, you can get the Google Nest Audio from Google Singapore.
I had my first taste of virtual reality (VR) when my colleague brought his Oculus Quest to the office last year and let us play Beat Saber on it. As I put on the headset and slipped on the controllers, I stepped into a whole new world of musical star wars and fruit ninja, slicing flying boxes to the beat with my light sabers. When I took the headset off, I was transported back to the office. It was an incredible experience and since then, I was secretly hoping for the day I could have my own Oculus Quest.
Fast forward a year and I now find myself a proud new owner of an Oculus Quest 2, having received it as an early birthday present. Released on October 13 and arriving at my doorstep halfway across the globe in sunny (and almost COVID-19 free I hope) Singapore on October 16, the Oculus Quest 2 was a portal into an alternate reality I could not wait to enter again.
It came in a sleek box and with a spacer (a plastic piece to add more distance between your face and the screen) for folks who wear glasses like yours truly. It was a breeze to set up once I linked it up with my Facebook account.
PSA: you have to link your Quest 2 to your Facebook account and there have been stories of people who have had their Quest 2 downgraded to paperweights as they were locked out of their Facebook accounts. You have been warned. A further look into those accounts shows that it mostly happens to those with new/throwaway accounts which aren’t tied to a person’s real identity. That would bring us down another rabbit hole of the “omniscience” and intrusiveness of Facebook… but tldr; if you aren’t willing to connect your Facebook account with your Oculus, the Oculus Quest 2 is definitely not for you.
Now that I’ve owned it for more than 10 days, here are five reasons why I think you’ll like it:
It’s an incredibly immersive experience. As you don the headset and look around you, there’s only the ground under your feet that tethers you to reality. Ok, so I’m exaggerating a little bit – but at any rate, I’d encourage you to try a VR headset and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s convenient. There are no wires involved! This is a departure from most other VR headsets which can be a bit cumbersome to set up. The headset and controllers are all you need, and this makes the set very portable. This might seem intuitive and easy to take for granted, but not too long ago, VR required the setting up of additional “base stations”/poles to get started.
It’s value for money. The Oculus Quest 2 64GB is currently available for S$440 on Amazon Prime and I consider it quite affordable for a VR headset. In comparison, a Nintendo Switch console retails at S$459. A single Beat Saber game at Headrock VR which would set you back S$35 when bundled with 2 other VR games (the latter 2 are a bit harder to replicate on the Quest so maybe you could head down to Headrock to try it out!). Given it’s arguably the cheapest of the 3, I would put it at S$5 per play. The game itself cost me S$50 including an Imagine Dragons music pack and I’ve played it a tad too many times to count. I’m working on bringing the average cost per game (including the headset) to below S$5…
It can provide a good workout. There are pretty good exercise games available for purchase. My only game thus far is Beat Saber and my heartbeat has gone above 150 bpm when playing this game.
It’s great for connecting with friends. While there aren’t many collaborative games that I know of which you can play on a single headset, it is still great for connecting with friends. Most folks still have not really tasted the VR experience yet and when I brought it over for social gatherings, my friends thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were bowled over by the technology. A couple of them are thinking of getting it for themselves too.
However, there are a few drawbacks to the Quest 2 that you may want to be aware of too.
The head strap can take a bit of getting used to and it wasn’t as hardy as I hoped for it to be. It takes a bit of adjusting to have it sit comfortably on your head.
The battery life of two hours could be considered short for some. I consider it a reminder that it’s time to come back to reality though. If you’re planning to play with friends, you’ll want to make sure it’s fully charged.
The game selection is rather limited compared to other platforms, and they also can be a bit more pricey. To manage costs, I’m spacing my game purchases out so I can enjoy them fully and get my money’s worth out of it.
This isn’t quite a drawback, but a reminder to consider getting some hygienic disposable eye masks so that everyone’s sweat doesn’t get absorbed into the same sponge.
In short, if you’re looking for a new immersive experience to share with your friends, the Oculus Quest 2 will be a great gadget to get!
Apple unveiled two new iPads early this morning — the 8th generation iPad and 4th generation iPad Air. If that has gotten you excited, it’s understandable because the specifications and features are amazing.
Just take the new iPad Air. It has impressive credentials. A secured touch screen with 10.9-inch liquid retina display. A powerful A14 Bionic chip that can capture and edit 4K video. An array of colours to choose from. And who could not be attracted to the 2nd generation Apple Pencil?
Of course, it packs much more than these but let’s focus on these for now.
Are these good enough reasons to dunk your current device for this newbie? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting down the new offerings.
I’ve owned the first and third generation iPads and am proud of Apple for their innovations. In fact, it’s because of the reliability of Apple’s products that I’m still using the third generation iPad bought in 2012 today. It does everything I need it for. Whatever it cannot do, I will use my notebook or smartphone.
7 reasons not to get
Here are seven reasons why I won’t be getting a new iPad.
My current device is still working fine. It’s a testament of Apple’s quality.
I can still do what I need with my well-used iPad.
I don’t play games that require graphics grunt.
I don’t need a more powerful device — the old chip is fast enough for what I need to do.
I don’t need an iPad in another colour — I can always buy a cover of any other colour. Admittedly, it’s harder to find these today but not impossible.
The display is good and bright enough for me.
I don’t shoot and edit 4K videos on my iPad.
I can think of many more reasons but these seven are good enough to convince me not to part with my cash to get more dash.
And 7 reasons to lay hold of a new one
To be fair, I will also provide seven reasons why you should consider getting one.
If you’ve not owned an iPad, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s the original tablet and leader of the tablet pack.
If you intend to make the iPad your primary device. Gone are the days when the iPad has to play second fiddle to the notebook computer. I know of people who use just the iPad for work and play.
It can handle tons of stuff. The new chip is powerful enough for Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoship CC and even games that require graphics grunt.
The Apple Pencil is a game changer. If you’re the creative sort, it’s all you need to bring around with you on your sojourns.
Weighing just 458 grammes for the wi-fi version, it is light and thin — plus points for bringing around anywhere.
If you’re into shooting 4K video, this is it — you can even edit your videos on this device.
If you’re an Apple ecosystem fan, this is a must-have to complete your collection. Everything works seamlessly across the Apple products.
So, whether to buy or not really depends on your needs. I don’t need a new version at the moment but your needs may differ from mine.
Digital storage is so important in today’s world. With digitisation and digitalisation, many things are now stored in soft copy — from data and documents to photos and videos.
When my WD portable hard disk drive (HDD) started acting wonky last year, my heart began working overtime. My work, life and family stuff were all stored in that drive. Thankfully, my notebook computer had another set of the contents. Otherwise, I would have been in some hospital’s emergency ward.
Having survived the ordeal, I decided not to take any chance and began scouting for an alternative portable HDD. My search ended with the Samsung Portable SSD T5 (1TB), which I managed to buy from http://www.qoo10.sg. At S$169, it was a bargain that I could not pass up.
Guess what? After ordering the SSD, I managed to revive and reformat my old WD HDD and reload my data.
The new purchase has been in my drawer since September 2019. It was only when my daughter needed a storage device to transfer data to her new notebook that it saw the light of day. My daughter was highly impressed with its speed and portability so I simply had to check it out myself.
Here are five reasons why my storage woes are no more:
Small and light. It’s so compact — smaller than a business card and weighing just 51 grammes. With a thickness of a fraction over one cm, it is a lightweight wonder that can be easily handled and brought around.
Lightning fast. Actually, I don’t know how fast a lightning is but the Samsung Portable SSD T5 transfers at up to 540MB/s, nearly five times faster than most portable hard disk drives. My 17GB Outlook file took under a minute to copy. As a matter of reference, it used to take more than 10 minutes with my old portable HDD.
Very safe. With no moving parts, the aluminum-clad SSD offers peace of mind. I’m safe in teh knowledge that it can handle up to drops from two metres.
Lovely colours. My 1TB version comes in bronze colour while the 250GB and 500GB models are said to have an alluring blue body.
Easy connectivity. The box packs two cables — USB C to USB C cable and USB C to USB A cable — so the T5 can connect to a wide range of devices.
In conclusion, I think the Samsung Portable SSD T5 is nifty storage device that fits lots of lifestyle — whether it’s for work, travel, photography, or as a video library. The price can vary quite a bit (it currently lists for S$100 more than what I paid for) depending on when you buy and where you buy from. My suggestion is to keep a lookout for good deals during shopping seasons, which these days, feel like every other week.
Think of portable fans and what comes to mind? Those that you can hold in your hands? Cute but not entirely functional? I’ve been blessed to have one of such portable fans which can be held in the hand or placed on a stand, is cute and very functional. It’s the So-love N-9 which I love so much but is now used by one of my daughters.
When a friend posted on Facebook that he had bought a portable fan that can be extended to one-metre tall, I was intrigued.
A quick check online saw the fan listed as a Xiaomi cordless remote control foldable stand fan. There’s no Xiaomi branding on it but I guess it could be because it probably looks like something from the China lifestyle device maker.
I read the specs, reviews and price and decided to give it a shot. At S$36.90 (without delivery), I figured it was a low risk bet.
The Qoo10 order arrived the next day and I could see why it was described as a Xiaomi brand. With its all-white body, the fan looks like most Xiaomi devices.
Setting up was easy. No manual was needed. It’s just a case of plug and play. The P9S is about the size of a short stack of dessert plates.
It unfolds easily and can sit nicely on the table or be extended to stand unobstrusively on the floor.
Here are seven reasons why I really like this portable standing fan:
Practical. With its ability to extend from 41 to 106cm, the fan is so versatile and can be used anywhere in the house or outside. The fan head can be tilted up to 180 degrees.
Portable. It really lives up to its name. The P9S is so portable that it can fit in a backpack and be brought around and used anywhere.
Powerful. In most cases, portability comes with a price. The smaller the device, the less powerful it is. But this fan has the right balance of portability and power. It comes with four fan speeds — soft wind, cool wind, strong wind, and natural wind. Admittedly, the fan can be a tad noisy at its most powerful setting.
Painless. If moving to the fan to adjust settings is a pain, the P9S provides the perfect anesthestic. The bluetooth remote control lets the fan be controlled from up to five metres away.
Precise. A timer lets you set the duration you want the fan to be on.
Protective. The fan will deactivate when an object jams the blades, ensuring that no one gets hurt from any accidental poking at the blades.
Priced right. At S$36.90, the fan is a little pricey when compared with hand-held models but it is better compared with desk and standing fans.
Charging is via a USB-C. It takes about 5.5 hours to be fully charged but can last up to a day of use depending on fan speed.
Perhaps the clincher for me is the ease of cleaning. Just twist the cover and unscrew the fan blade cap and the parts can be easily washed.
The price varies depending on where you order from. From my research, I won’t pay anything above S$40 inclusive of shipping.
After using it for three weeks, I’d recommend it to anyone needing some cool respite for hot and humid days.
Smartphone stands come and go. Over the years, I’ve used so many different phone stands that I have lost count. One reason for the constant change is the evolution of smartphones — with each generation comes a new size that renders the previous generation’s mobile stand obsolete.
Hence, I was intrigued when I heard about the version that MOFT (Mobile Office for Travellers) has on Kickstarter. To put into context, this was in the second half of last year, when I was travelling a bit.
On flights, especially budget airlines where there is little or no in-flight entertainment, I would usually watch movies on my smartphone. This can be a tiring task if held on the hand. Imagine holding a smartphone (no matter how light) at a steady distance for more than an hour. The alternative is to put it on the tray table in front. Unfortunately, no matter what I use to prop the phone to the right angle, it just slides down after a while.
So, back to MOFT X phone stand. I read the specs:
Can be placed in 40 degrees landscape and 60 degrees portrait modes
Fits three cards in a back slot
Just 0.5cm thin
Comes with a magnetic car mount
These were enough for me to provide my credit card details for two in September. The stands arrived two months later, which was OK considering that it was a Kickstarter project.
Love at first sight It was love at first sight. It was everything I had imagined it to be. Not only me, but my family loved it!
I’ve bought tons of products in the past. Many come with interesting designs and highly touted features but when put to use, are quite impractical, such as a travel jacket (also bought from Kickstarter).
Epitome of practicality But this MOFT X phone stand is the epitome of practicality. Let me share just six reasons:
Lightweight. It’s so light that it doesn’t add much weight to my smartphone (I’m using a Google Pixel 3). That’s very important because I prefer my smartphone and its coverings to be light — that’s why I picked the Google 3 and not the Google 3XL.
Stickability. The sticker clings tightly to my smartphone backing and can be detached and resused.
Mountablity. Another perpetual pain is finding the right car mount. The original order of the MOFT X phone stand came with a car mount magnet that can be stuck on the dashboard. It is unostrusive and really strong — the magnet holds very well. This magnet must now be ordered separately.
Versatility. With the MOFT X, the smartphone can be viewed at 40 degress landscape (good for watching videos) or 60 degrees portrait (great for putting on the table). The portrait mode is excellent for meetings as it offers greater privacy by letting you point the phone to yourself so others cannot see your screen, unlike when a phone is placed flat with screen up on the table during meetings.
Convenient. The slot fits three ID/credit cards or a small stack of name cards comfortably.
Security. The RFID protection at the back ensures that the cards are well protected against skimming.
One reason why I delayed writing a review of the MOFT X phone stand is because I wanted to assess its durability.
After three months of normal use, it showed signs of wear and tear. The folds became flimsy and the edges started flaring. And it’s not just mine but my family members’ as well. All of us use it differently but the results are the same after a while.
Another pain point is the delivery. As I really loved the product, I have made three subsequent orders, the latter two of which gave me great pain.
On both occasions, the tracking notification came quickly after order. However, the elation was short lived as the packages were stuck somewhere in China — once because of the magnetic mount and the second time because of COVID-19.
The customer service is responsive — at first at least. Typical early reply is to wait another week for signs of progress before getting back to them. That’s BAD customer service. They should have tracked the package themselves and get back to the customer, instead of the other way around. And if nothing happens after a week, the standard reply is used again — please wait another week (Grrr…)
On both occasions, the oders arrived after lots of chasing and about a month plus after the initial chaser.
Other that the durability and the delivery pains, the MOFT X phone stand is a must-have. MOFT has a well-designed product on its hands. It just needs to get the material and customer service right.
I’ve had the Kindle Paperwhite 4 for a couple of weeks now – 6 weeks to be exact – and I have to say that I really like it!
Having read eBooks on multiple platforms – iPad, iPad mini, iPhone and my current OnePlus 6T mobile phone – I did not realize till I switched over to the Kindle Paperwhite 4 that the difference is pretty significant.
The main reasons I like it are:
I had to purchase the product online as it is not easy to find a physical store that sells it in Singapore. I forgot how light and small this was till it arrived. However, upon using it, and of course, with a casing, I find that the Kindle Paperwhite 4 while small, is very sturdy and does not feel like I’m holding a flimsy tablet.
Long battery life
Considering that my previous eBook reading experiences were on my iPads, iPhone and mobile phone, it is safe to say that the battery life of my Kindle Paperwhite 4 has amazed me. A single charge can last me a good three weeks of reading (with minimal notetaking). Of course, this is not a very statement to say as this tablet is used only to serve its purpose of reading and not for any other use (unlike my other devices).
Does not strain the eyes
Probably the best reason on why I love this product. The Kindle Paperwhite 4 provides a very pleasant reading experience with minimal glare. Unlike conventional devices, the Kindle provides a very realistic reading experience with the perk of being able to adjust the backlight, font size and even page margins. The ability to make the adjustments, and the overall paper-like feature makes reading extremely pleasant.
Before I bought the product, there were multiple reviews online that said that the 2019 version was not as good as its predecessor in terms of the user interface and the overall user experience. The main feature they were complaining about was how the power button was placed too near the charging port, at the bottom of the tablet, which makes them power off their devices when they touch the bottom to their dismay. But to date, this feature does not bother me – could be due to the fact that I have a magnetic sleep casing that I use (hence I do not even use the power button often).
I’m pretty proud of my Kindle Paperwhite 4 purchase and I’m hoping that my desire to read to read this season will make this purchase even more worthwhile!
A recent treat for myself was the purchase of an Apple Air Pods Pro to upgrade my current Air Pods. The Bluetooth headset came on the market around two months back and has received its fair share of positive and negative reviews. As an Android user, here’s my review on this product!
What I like
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and transparency
Unlike the AirPods, the AirPods Pro provides active noise cancellation which reduces the surrounding’s white noise. Such a feature plus the transparency feature turned off provides users like me with the ability to completely tune-off to the surroundings especially when traveling on public transport and cafes. Will test this feature out further when on the plane!
When the transparency feature is turned on, one can also easily eavesdrop on conversations surrounding you as the microphones on the AirPods Pro pick up surrounding sounds and amplifies it in the AirPods Pro. This feature is good in situations where you need to be constantly aware of what’s going and allows you not to be shut-off from your surroundings completely.
The AirPods Pro comes with three pairs of in-ear rubber tips (small, medium and large). The default medium size fits my ears snugly and provides a good level of comfort even when wearing for extended periods of time. I believe that the in-ear rubber became an option not only to replace the hard AirPods but also to aid in the noise cancellation feature. As a patented in-ear rubber tip, I’ve really got to make it a point not to lose these rubber tips as the conventional tips will not easily replace it.
The battery-life is considerably longer than my AirPods with each charge lasting around four hours with the ANC feature turned on. The charging case also holds around four to five charges of the AirPods Pro. A 10-minute charge in the wireless case charged the AirPods by about 40%.
While not a main feature, the haptic feedback on the tips of the AirPods Pro gives the button-like feel when clicked. Instead of a pure tap of the earpiece where I sometimes find a bit insensitive on my AirPods, the tip of the AirPods Pro has a button-life feature that is only usable when the AirPods Pro are in your ear. The feel of clicking a button to control is still pretty amazing imo.
What I dislike:
Android users do not get all the perks!
The AirPods Pro is designed to work seamlessly with complementary Apple products (i.e. MacBooks, iPhones, iPads, iWatch) and Siri can easily be called out to assist you. However, for Android users, while Siri is not available, I’d expect the microphone to be able to activate my Google Assistant – but it doesn’t! So that’s something I’m a tad disappointed with, especially if my mobile phone isn’t near enough to pick up my Google commands.
In addition, the ear tip fit test can only be done via Apple products (iPhone specifically) and therefore this feature does not apply to me. Not a big deal in my opinion, but something I’d use if I’d own an iPhone.
I’ve faced two instances of intermittent headset pairing with both my MacBook and my Android phone.
For my MacBook, it somehow only managed to pick up one side of my AirPods Pro and did not pick up the other. This resulted in an imbalance in sounds and was annoying till I placed the pair of AirPods Pro in its casing and removed it again for a refreshed connection.
For my Android phone, the AirPods Pro connection could not be picked up by my mobile phone’s Bluetooth in one instance – an issue I didn’t really have with my previous pair of AirPods. Again, a quick reset solved it.
Like any other Bluetooth headsets, there is bound to be some pairing issues, but I was just shocked to see that it happened (I had higher hopes for these expensive pair of AirPods).
I had originally considered buying the Sony WF-1000XM3 Noise Cancelling True Wireless Headphones but ultimately decided on purchasing the AirPods Pro as my previous pair AirPods was pretty reliable and I wanted the seamless pairing it had with my MacBook Pro.
While there are some issues which I dislike about the AirPods Pro, I would still recommend it to anyone who is looking for a noise-cancellation earpiece with decent audio quality. The comfort level of this earpiece supersedes its predecessors and if you own complementary Apple products, the seamless pairing is definitely a perk!
With some vouchers on-hand earlier this year, I decided to purchase the iWalk Scorpion X Quick Charge 3.0 Power Bank (12000 mAh). Having a similar 8000 mAh one at home, I figured that the 12000 mAh version will come power-packed, and it did not disappoint!
This power bank is fast charging, allowing me to charge my device quickly from 40% to 100% in less than an hour. Considering my heavy utilization of my phone when I’m on the move, having a fast charging power bank is always a plus. In addition, it stores enough juice to recharge a full mobile device four times. When traveling in a group, the juice capacity definitely is a perk as it ensures that you still have enough power to charge your device after allowing others to charge it over a day.
From the name of the device, the scorpion, it is not hard to notice why it got its name. With three cables attached to the power bank, it allows one to charge multiple devices (with different ports) – charging cables include the USB-C, Micro-USB and Lightning cables. It has a USB head to allow charging of the power bank with a wall plug or even your laptop. I particularly liked this feature as I am not required to bring additional cables to charge my power bank.
The power bank is approximately the size of an iPhone 11, and has a very sleek design. One side of it has a checkered and seemingly anti-scratch surface. As a 12000 mAh device, it is without doubt heavier than its 8000 mAh counterpart but still falls within an acceptable weight to carry around.
A small flaw this power bank has, in my opinion, is that it does not contain a USB port. With many devices that do not utilize the usb-c, micro USB and lighting types, the lack of the USB port prevents me from charging other types of devices, much to my dismay.
Despite the small flaw, I would definitely recommend the purchase of this iWalk Scorpion Power Bank if you are looking for a power-packed charger! You can find it here.